Antique fishing lures by

The Moonlight Bait Company, Paw Paw, Michigan

One of the purest forms of tackle collecting pleasure is an opportunity to gaze at the wondrous lures crafted by Horace Ball and Charles Varney in the years that followed the creation of the Moonlight Bait Company in December of 1908. These men were part of a group called the Moonlight Fishing Club, whose members had little time to fish during the day. Therefore they fished at night. Horace Ball was the janitor in the county courthouse in Paw Paw, Michigan, and made some of the early Floating Night Baits right there in the courthouse basement. What follows on this page is indeed a treat. Many of these antique fishing lures and  boxes do not appear in any other reference material, online or elsewhere.

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This is Page 1 of  2 Moonlight Pages.

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This is Moonlight's first lure, the Floating bait. The slender wooden plug, finished in luminous paint, is regarded as the first of the many "pecker-head" plugs of the era. The yellow box is one of the oldest. These boxes also turn up in maroon, white and blue-gray. The floating bait was No. 1 in the Moonlight line. Many of them still glow in the dark.

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This is one of the rarest Moonlights, the Trout Bob, made in 1911 and quickly discontinued. Basically it's the flyrod version of the No. 1 Floating Bait shown above. The color flyer inside offers tips on fishing the "Bob" at night, when the big ones are lurking. This mint lure, box and paper were found in Canada. The Trout Bob is one of my favorites.

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The  Paw Paw Fish Spear dates to 1917. This short-lived simple plug came in an elegant picture box with a nice litho of the lure, accurate in every detail. Fish Spear boxes are almost always blue. Perhaps the Moonlight folks only made up a batch or two of them. The Paw Paw Fish Spear has two line ties to adjust the lure's action in the water. This lure was owned by a museum in Michigan and sold - so they could buy some local pottery.

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This box - the only one known - clears up an enduring mystery. The No. 7 Paw Paw Pearl Wobbler utilizes the distinct weight and bucktail found inside the Fish Nipple. Til now, we knew that the No. 6 is the Zig-Zag of 1913, and the No. 8 is the Bug of 1916. Now we know what the No. 7 is, and can date it to 1914-15.  Note the Moonlight hardware on the sinker. This rare box turned up in a tackle box donated  to a Goodwill store in Grand Rapids, Mich., and was auctioned on Ebay - and adopted by yours truly.

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The Moonlight Zig-Zag Bait was introduced in 1913, and this one is in its correct maroon intro box. Early Moonlight Zig Zag lures were often painted with crude, runny "coach paint" and lacked the finishes of the larger, more sophisticated  tackle makers. As you will see in subsequent pictures, these guys did a lot of catching up a few years later!

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This is one of the rarest of all Moonlight boxes: the maroon Midget Zig-Zag. Although the lures are somewhat available, this is the only example of this box that I'm aware of. The box is almost two inches shorter than the regular Zig Zag carton shown above and the endflap is marked for a yellow lure. My belief is that most Midget Zig Zags were simply sold in standard Zig Zag boxes. Enjoy!

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The Ladybug Wiggler is among Moonlight's most beautiful lures. This rare picture box, with the "Pat. Pending" stamp, contains a lure with no eye detail and airbrushed legs, and of course the picture on the box matches the lure. This is the oldest  of two versions of the Ladybug Wiggler, dating to 1915-16.  The  box was acquired from a visitor to this website after it sat unappreciated in a tool shed for  decades.   Like other Moonlight lures of the Golden Age, it was around only for a few years.  

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This is the second - and more elaborate - version of the  Ladybug Wiggler, which no doubt  took a lot of work to produce. Note the addition of external milky glass eyes and waxed string legs, which made this a more advanced model than the one shown above. Also note this box has the 1917 patent date instead of "Pat. Pending.".  Red and yellow is a typical Moonlight finish. This box is printed, while the above model is an applied paper label style.

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Guess when The Bug was made? The wonderful box tells it all: "1916's Newest." The Bug is another challenge to anyone who has ever used a lathe, and was around only for a year or two.  It is one of Moonlight's hardest to find lures. This example turned up in a hunting and fishing cabin in Idaho, along with a cache of other early baits!

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The Fish Nipple was a simple rubber plug with an internal weight and horsehair out the back. Introduced in 1911, the Fish Nipple is one of Moonlight's earliest baits. The picture boxes may or may not be the first box made for these odd lures; I've seen simple Fish Nipple boxes in block lettering that could be even earlier.  My ex-wife hated this lure.

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The Pikaroon was first made by Silver Creek Novelty Works in Dowagiac, Michigan and also by Moonlight.  The Pikaroon is one of the most elegant baits ever made. Silver Creek Novelty Works was rumored to have been formed by employees from Heddon. This rare box is longer than the standard one, and note that the leaping bass is facing left; typical boxes had the bass facing to the right!

This is the yellow "Moonlight Brand Minnows" used during the early 1920s when the company billed itself as "Moonlight Bait and Novelty Works." The wonderful lures  inside are the later-version Ladybugs, so named for their intoxicatingly beautiful blend of airbrushed colors. 

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This is a Moonlight Silver Creek Salesman Sample Case, circa 1920, complete with all 33 lures including the Silver Creek Bass Eat-Us, Trout Eat-Us, Fly Eat-Us, Pollywog and other Silver Creek Bait Company lures.  The set includes eight Silver Creek Novelty Works colors and the Pollywog lures all have the hand painted "moustache" gill marks. This is an exceptional and rare set of Silver Creek lures!

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